One thing is clear after two exhibition games: This year’s basketball Cards are light years ahead of any Rick Pitino team since he arrived in Louisville in 2001. He appears to finally have all the pieces together for what could be a special season.
Few coaches could have survived the challenges of his first few seasons. The program was plagued by a lack of talented veterans, few recruits in the pipeline, and players with eligibility and discipline issues. Then came the disappointments of talented recruits skipping college for the pros, accompanied by the crushing blow of injuries to key players. The coach was even dealing with personal health issues at one point.
It’s hard to believe that some skeptics were questioning whether Pitino had lost his touch and desire to win as recently as last season, despite having guided the Cards to the Final Four during the 2004-05. That, of course, was before they won 12 of the last 15 regular season games last year.
Pitino is making good on his promise “to return the Cards to national prominence.” It’s going to be fun to watch.